MSU's Raequan Williams, LJ Scott, Josiah Scott and Brian Lewerke look ahead to playing in the Redbox Bowl The Detroit News
East Lansing – Michigan State continued its preparation this week for its matchup with Oregon in the Redbox Bowl, but who will be under center on Dec. 31 is still a mystery.
A handful of players met with the media after practice on Thursday and one was junior quarterback Brian Lewerke. However, he wasn’t giving any indication if he would, in fact, be back in the starting lineup against the Ducks.
“I’m not allowed to talk about whether I can play or not,” Lewerke said.
That’s not exactly a new approach. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio rarely gives much information on injuries and appreciates his players doing the same.
Lewerke’s status has been an ongoing storyline this season for the Spartans. He first injured his right throwing shoulder in a victory at Penn State on Oct. 13 and played the next week against Michigan, though he was clearly hampered by the injury as he was just 5-for-25 passing for 66 yards in the Spartans’ loss.
Lewerke gave way to redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi the next week against Purdue but started the next two weeks against Maryland and Ohio State. But the injury was still clearly a factor as Lewerke was a combined 22-for-48 in the two games with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
He sat out the final two games against Nebraska and Rutgers, and while what is specifically wrong with his shoulder has never been discussed, Lewerke admitted the down time from the end of the regular season until bowl practice began has been beneficial.
“Yeah, definitely,” Lewerke said. “The rest always helps. I can say it definitely feels better.”
It’s been a tough road for Lewerke, who entered the season with his name showing up on some Heisman Trophy candidate lists and high on many NFL Draft lists. It all made sense after a 2017 season when Lewerke started all 13 games for a 10-win Spartans team, throwing for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns while amassing 3,352 total yards of offense, the second-most in program history.
But things started slowly as Lewerke threw seven interceptions in the first six games against just eight touchdowns. It all came as the offense was spending much of the time stuck in the mud.
All of it was hard on Lewerke.
“It was up and down a lot,” Lewerke said. “The Michigan game was rough, knowing it was a game we could have won. Even Ohio State is a game I felt we could have won, but with the arm, just knowing couldn’t throw as well as I wanted to sucked.
“But it’s something I’ve worked through a little bit and I’m in a much better place.”
Is it that much better that it will lead to returning as the starting quarterback? That probably won’t be revealed until the Spartans take the field at Levi’s Stadium.
If Lewerke can’t play Lombardi would likely get the call. He had an outstanding game against Purdue in his first start, throwing for 318 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Boilermakers. However, that success was hard to replicate as Lombardi started two more games, going 15-for-41 for 92 yards and an interception in a loss at Nebraska before going 19-for-43 for 173 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a victory over Rutgers.
Whoever starts against Oregon, Lewerke is preparing the same way he always has.
“Oh yeah, even when I wasn’t playing, I still approach it (like I’m starting),” Lewerke said. “I try and learn the same way and make sure I’m set with the offense and set with everything as well as I can be.”